Q&A: BORJA CASTILLEJO CALVO

Sleep Has Her House 2017 Scott Barley
Sleep Has Her House, 2017, Scott Barley

As a way of introducing you to some amazing people working in the fields of artist moving image, experimental film and alternative cinema, we have concocted a short questionnaire. Today we speak to film critic Borja Castillejo Calvo, the writer behind Cinesinfin.

1. Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Borja Castillejo Calvo and I’m a freelance film critic who is most interested in experimental and contemporary contemplative cinema. I live in Madrid, Spain, where I am completing a Master’s in Film Criticism at the ECAM.

2. What was the first film you remember seeing as a child?

That’s a difficult question because my first memories of watching films are confusing. I used to be a very concentrated observer, but I always got lost in the images and tended to mix them up in my head. Two scenes stand out in my memories: an old and decrepit mill getting almost destroyed by the storm during a sequence from Walt Disney’s The Old Mill (1937) and the fire (God) talking to Moses in a quiet cave in a sequence from The Prince of Egypt (1998). But if you ask me for one film, the first film that comes to my mind is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).

3. What was the last film you watched and what did you think of it?

To be honest, the last film I watched was Gertrud by Carl Th. Dreyer, but that’s not a fair answer because I’ve seen it before. I think it was the last masterpiece of a man who tried to express the essence itself through the gestures of his actors and the atmosphere of his theatrical aesthetic (the film was based on a play and Dreyer never hid that he tried to approximate the film to the art of the stage). A film I watched recently that was new to me is The Small Town (Kasaba) by Nuri Bilge Ceylan. It was a truly poetic film, capable of saying more with the wind and the montage than with words or methodical ways. Similar to Tarkovski, Erice, or Kiarostami (filmmakers who I’m sure inspired Ceylan) the Turkish auteur captures the essence of the things he films and sculpts time with a single shot, suspended in the woods or following a feather in an elementary school classroom.

4. How did you become interested in working with cinema/moving image?

I’ve always loved art and, even in my childhood, I was very deeply affected by some paintings or pieces of classical music. Then, thanks to my father, I discovered a lot of different kinds of cinema and through the years I began to understand the mechanisms behind the films. I was curious about other ways to create and I found a bunch of filmmakers who were as unknown as visionary. I found out that I wanted to know more and be able to keep those experiences somewhere so I started to write…

5. Tell us about a film that has had a profound effect on you?

There are not many, but I can tell you what I felt when I watched Sleep Has Her House by Scott Barley for the very first time. It was late, almost midnight, my girlfriend and I where at home and we started to watch this movie, which had caught my attention as a new experimental film. An hour and twenty-eight minutes later my girlfriend was sound asleep and I was alone in the dark. Only the film and I existed. After an obscure and oneiric trip through a painted-like-forest I felt almost dead. So exhausted, so calm, and so alive all at the same time… I couldn’t believe it, but the film had revealed something to me. Something truly powerful and important… I felt the numinous dread, as Rudolf Otto would say.

6. Favourite books about cinema/moving-image/filmmaking?

I really liked Béla Tarr, the Time After by Jacques Rancière, Cuerpo a cuerpo: Radiografías del cine contemporáneo by Domènec Font, Posnarrativo by Horacio Muñoz Fernández, and of course Tarkovski’s Sculping in Time and Bresson’s Notes on the Cinematographer. The most recent book I’ve read is a very special one: Devotional Cinema by Nathaniel Dorsky. A great book from a great filmmaker.

7. What would be your dream double-bill, two films you’d love to see together on the big screen?

The idea of watching two films in a row could be dangerous for both of them, but if I have to answer I think I would choose Last Year at Marienbad by Alain Resnais and India Song by Marguerite Duras. I think they have a lot of similarities and, in a way, they mirror each other.

8. Which filmmaker/artist are you most obsessed with, the one whose work you return to again and again?

My immediate answer is Béla Tarr, but recently I’ve been truly obsessed with Aleksandr Sokurov.

9. What are you currently working on/what projects do you have coming up?

This spring, I will continue with my studies and publishing essays on my blog, in addition to some collaborations with external magazines and attending a few festivals. I hope to write a book about contemporary experimental cinema in a few years.

Find out more:

My blog is: https://cinesinfin214878919.wordpress.com/

You can also follow me on Instagram: @cinesinfin